Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Newly Bold, but still as stupid

Did you read the essay in Time by former Marine LtGen Newbold in which he claimed to be newly bold in standing up to demand Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation? I have a couple of thoughts:

1. LtGen Newbold’s new boldness directly corresponds with polls that show the President’s low approval ratings. In this atmosphere, there is a lot more demand from the Bush and Rumsfeld-hating media for sour-grapes grousing from passed-over generals. Which leads me to point #2.

2. Who recommended Gen Pace over LtGen Newbold, Clinton appointee, for Vice Chief of Staff and later for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs? Answer: Rumsfeld. The reason for getting passed over for the fourth star and promotion probably has something to do with his mediocre and muddled thinking as exemplified by his lame “recommendations” contained in LtGen Newbold’s Time piece.

3. What is LtGen Newbold’s analysis for why we need a change in leadership at the Pentagon? In talking points that could have been ripped from the headlines of the Daily Kos, he says:

“the distortion of intelligence in the buildup to the war, McNamara-like micromanagement that kept our forces from having enough resources to do the job, the failure to retain and reconstitute the Iraqi military in time to help quell civil disorder, the initial denial that an insurgency was the heart of the opposition to occupation, alienation of allies who could have helped in a more robust way to rebuild Iraq, and the continuing failure of the other agencies of our government to commit assets to the same degree as the Defense Department. My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.”

Do we still have to argue these tired points? Distorted intelligence, not enough resources, disbanding the Iraq army, French not onboard because of bad diplomacy, and the fact that State has not been as eager to rebuild as the Defense Department is. Even if any of these were anything more than lame distortions, where is Rumsfeld’s culpability in any of them? CIA and DIA provided their judgments regarding Iraq’s weapons which EVERYONE including some newly bold cashiered generals agreed with. We have fought two wars for 5 years and lost 500 troops a year, which is little higher than the military accidental death rate; where is the evidence of a lack of materiel readiness? Secretary Bremer disbanded the Iraq Army, and how can Rumsfeld be blamed that other parts of the government are not committing assets at the same level as the Defense Department? (And doesn’t this argument mean the Rumsfeld is doing comparatively better than the rest of government which gives the lie to LtGen Newbold’s earlier bleating about a lack of resources? “Shhhhh, don’t wake the General, he is strategizing.”) Oh, don’t forget the shot about chicken hawks who “never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.”

So does that mean the Generals would do better? Well, no. The highest levels of the military lack courage to speak their minds about a “flawed” plan, are “intimidated,” display “quiescence” and “acted timidly” in the face of Rumsfeld’s “casualness and swagger.” Heck, with this bunch of nellies as Generals, as Newbold describes himself and his cronies, Rumsfeld probably felt like he HAD to strut around and make bold decisions lest Newbold and the boys with the Stars curl up under their desks in the E-ring, trying not to wet themselves.

4. But, let’s cut LtGen Newbold a break, after all, Clinton’s generals are not analysts, they let the big brains like Kos and Nancy Pelosi do the thinking. No, Newbold is a man of action! So what does he propose to do in Iraq, once we get those bumbling losers out of the Pentagon and can make bold, correct decisions? As his name would imply, he has a plan: “We need fresh ideas and fresh faces. That means, as a first step, replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach.” Tell us, General, what should we change, what should we do? Well, sadly, LtGen Newbold displays the same timidity that characterized his service in the Pentagon: “a precipitous withdrawal would be a mistake.”

I join clear thinkers everywhere when I say: “huh?” Newbold asserts that the US needs to change leadership in the middle of the war but as justification for such an assertion can only cite Rumsfeld’s boldness in the face of timidity, strength in the face of General weakness, competence in the face of incompetence. And he wants to make this precipitous change in order to maintain the status quo.

All in all, not very compelling piece of generalship, although as an audition for lead military advisor to Olbermann or Maher, it will probably get his foot in the door.